You might think that while curtains and bed linen really need replacing every so often, bathrooms are here to stay. Not so in the world of the high class hotel; most refurbish their bathrooms every seven or eight years. There’s nothing as bad as a tired bathroom – and as in other walks of life, technology is making big changes to the way bathrooms work.
For instance, ‘just’ a shower is no longer enough. Rain showers such as those boasted by the Hoxton (pic above) are the way to go. Suppliers are upping the ante with products like the TOTO Gyrostream shower, which delivers horizontal as well as vertical jets of water. Even budget hotels like Tune have power showers in their small but efficient bathrooms.
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With toilets, tech has really arrived. While ten years ago, travellers marvelled at Japanese heated toilet seats and bottom-washing water jets, and we all thought the Japanese were, frankly, a bit weird, now this kind of functionality is arriving over here. The May Fair Hotel‘s Ebony Suite, for instance, has a TOTO NeoRest Washlet – a toilet that costs ten grand, and includes an integrated bidet, directional water jets, a water massage function, dryer, deodoriser, and remote control. Philippe Starck’s SensoWash has similar technology which enables the user to set water temperature, volume and direction, followed up by blasts of warm drying air. Next to all this, Jacuzzis look a bit old-fashioned.
Yet alongside the increasing technological sophistication, bathrooms are – paradoxically – also espousing a ‘back to nature’ vibe. They’ve become places for pampering and relaxing, not just for getting clean, so while they need to deliver quick and efficient showering for the business traveller, they also need to offer the chance to luxuriate. Natural materials such as stone basins, or copper and bronze, rather than glazed ceramics, are becoming more popular; wood or laminate rather than tiled floors give a softer effect; and in toiletries, we’re seeing more flower, herb and spice aromas.
TV in the bathroom? That’s very much the new funky bathroom trend. Just listening to the news while you’re in the bath isn’t enough now – people want to be able to see it too and to zap while showering, hence the advent of waterproof remotes (for instance at The Arch). Mirror TVs allow guests to choose between the two functions; so you can watch TV while cleaning your teeth, then switch to the mirror to put on your makeup or do your hair.
Then you might want to consider some of the more advanced possibilities; hydrotherapy tubs, Vitamin C infused shower heads, and showers that can deliver steam as well as water.
There’s also a tendency to glass-walled bathrooms, allowing more light into the bathroom compared to the dark caverns that were previously popular.
Famously, the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green makes its bathrooms practically the feature point of its suites. Obviously that trend isn’t welcome to everyone, as while it may allow you more light, it also detracts from privacy. I don’t know which way that will go – perhaps automatic blinds or even Smart Glass are the answer?
From the hotel’s point of view, though, technology is all about controlling their water and energy costs. So we have dual flush toilets in most hotels now, infra-red and motion-sensing controls, and aerating shower heads that deliver a more powerful shower with less water.
Luxury is relative, though. In India, ‘hot water available all day’ is a definite luxury – and I’ve stayed in idyllic beach resorts where showers came in the shape of a bucket full of hot water (when it’s 35 degrees and the sun is shining, you don’t mind so much!). While singing toilets and steam showers may have their place, I think my favourite luxuries among London hotel bathrooms are a little more idiosyncratic. First, I love a great view; so the Radisson Blu Edwardian New Providence Wharf, which has a penthouse bathroom with huge windows overlooking the O2, is on my list.
And secondly, I love a bit of fun, something a bit different and quirky. So the steampunk ‘bathing machines’ in Hazlitt’s Hotel, or the copper-sheathed shower enclosures and rolltop baths in the Gore Hotel, may not be the most advanced technology, but they’re definitely my cup of tea.
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Photo credits: Hoxton Hotel Facebook, Tune Hotels, Bathroom Gallery FB page, Town Hall Hotel, London Hotels Insight blogger Timea.